Write what you know, the adage goes. So that leaves diabetes and how to discuss sheep-lovin’ in a couple languages. Since I opened the door to the diabetes in the last post (and since making love to farm animals can only be discussed over so many blog posts before repeating yourself), I’ll start there. This may be for myself more for anyone else, but at the same time, I don’t meet many other type 1 diabetics and am always interested by our differences/shared experiences. Maybe another one of my kind will find this and find a sense of empathy. So here goes a little personal history lesson.
When I was 21 months old, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, but at the time, they still called it juvenile diabetes. The hospitals in the area not being well-versed in the condition (or not as knowledgeable as my mother would’ve liked), we took a trip to Joslin Hospital in Boston, the leading facility for the disease in the northeast. There, they taught my family how to mix and inject the doses of insulin, test my glucose levels, etc. At the time, my body didn’t react to the human synthetic insulin but received the “pure pork” variety well. I was scheduled for two doses a day of the Lente, a type that worked for 6-8 hours with a peak of somewhere between 2-4 hours after injection. These were administered by my mother or grandmother into my butt or arms. I’ve never had one in my stomach, and frankly, the idea creeps me the hell out.
As a side note, I was teased in my very early school days for having a big ass. I’m not sure how a first grader determines the normality of ass sizes, but mine apparently grew beyond that range. As I wasn’t a particularly chubby child (until a short period in roughly my sixth year of grade school), I can only guess that the injections affected the cheeks. This is one side effect I’m in no rush to test out.
Jump to when I’m eight and curled into a ball on the sofa of my living room. After expunging bodily fluids from every orifice I had, I was taken to my pediatrician, who claimed it was a stomach bug that was going around. I’m told these events happened, and they’re vaguely etched into memory. What I clearly remember is hallucinating tiny airplanes flying around the room for most of the day. My mother, for whatever reason, didn’t believe the doctor and suggested taking me to the hospital. He told her he worked exclusively with what was then named Delaware Valley Hospital in Langhorne. Having nearly killed my mother during her ordeal with cancer only four years prior, that particular hospital seemed like a poor choice. The doctor refused to treat me anywhere else; we went to Lower Bucks Hospital in Levittown; and that was the last I saw of that doctor.
A number of years later, I worked with a woman at Lennox who still took her preteen to him. She found him quite pleasant to deal with, she said, especially once she uncovered his affair with one of the office’s nurses.
It turned out that I was going through what’s called ketoacidosis. I’ll let you look that up yourself on Wikipedia. An endocrinologist, the first and last I’ve ever seen, explained that it probably occurred because of a growth spurt. I was a year beyond the average age, but so it goes. A second type of insulin was to be included in my shots from this point forward: Regular, which lasts for 2-4 hours and has a peak of roughly 15 minutes after injection.
Within the next couple years, I was injecting myself, mostly in the arms. This was eventually moved to the legs, as I could maintain the pain better in my thighs. The learning curve included discovering pain management, which led to the insight that pain is subjective and mostly in the mind. The next logical leap was that all sensation was manageable, which blended with an infant sense of spirituality/philosophy and resulted in a kind of proto-Buddhist viewpoint of reality. It also later blended with teen angst, lending itself to some experimentation with cutting. I still blame my hatred of summer on the fact that I can’t comfortably wear long sleeves, which would otherwise cover my sliced up arms. But I’m jumping ahead.
(…to be continued…)